Connecting the Farm With the City

Published May 02, 2016 21:19


Manager Danielle Mondor rattles the wire fence and the Tamworth-Berkshire sows begin moving toward the noise in their muddy pasture at FortWhyte Farms.

The three breeding sows and their piglets are among the animals raised for food at the farm located just past the entrance to FortWhyte Alive at 1961 McCreary Rd. near the boundary of the City of Winnipeg and RM of Macdonald.

FortWhyte Farms is a social enterprise that combines sustainable agriculture with student programming.

"We are a farm that does education around local foods and sustainable urban farming," Mondor said.

On the morning of April 26, six high school students were preparing lunch using pork, potatoes and herbs raised and grown on the farm. The FortWhyte staff and about 20 volunteers work with students from Winnipeg high schools, including Argyle Alternative, Gordon Bell and R.B. Russell Vocational, as well as local youth-serving organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg and Spence Neighbourhood Association.

"We work to empower youth to build self-reliance and leadership skills," Mondor said.

They also provide students with the chance to learn marketable skills such as food preparation and marketing, greenhouse and garden care, and animal husbandry.

At this time of year, the solar-powered greenhouse is filled with tables of vegetable and herb seedlings. Mondor said most of them will be planted in the farm’s market garden, which covers just under two acres, but extras will be sold at a plant sale on May 29, with the remainder donated to Winnipeg community gardens.

A farmers market is held at the farm every Tuesday from noon to 5 p.m. starting on July 5. As well as fresh vegetables and eggs from the farm’s free-range flock, the market offers jams and jellies, salsa, muffins and pies made from ingredients grown on the farm or sourced locally. The farm has an apiary, so bottles of honey are also sold. At times, humanely-raised rabbit, poultry and pork is available as rabbits, pigs and chickens are the farm’s livestock.

Mondor said the preserves, honey and other non-perishable items are also sold in the FortWhyte Alive gift shop.

The farm grows enough fresh produce that it has operated a community shared agriculture project called The Goods for the past few years.

"We are adding value-added items to our CSA this year," Mondor said.

Along with vegetables and herbs, the weekly CSA boxes will contain baking, honey, dried spices, canned goods and fresh eggs. A 12-week full share is $495. The six-week half-shares are sold-out for this summer. CSA pick-up is at the farm every Thursday from 2 to 8 p.m. starting July 7.

While other CSA projects typically offer a drop-off location inside Winnipeg, Mondor said they purposely decided against that idea.

"We want to encourage people to come out and see the farm," Mondor said.

As well, they don’t require that their shareholders do any volunteer work on the farm since they hire 14 youth for full-time work during the summer. These seasonal employees also receive life skills and financial management training in addition to working in the market garden, helping with the animals and learning kitchen and food preservation skills.

Mondor said the hope is for the youth interns to use their skills to find satisfying full-time employment after graduation.

The farm also offers the public the opportunity to see the animals and attend workshops on gardening and other topics.

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